The last time I was in Paris . . . well, it was a long time ago. Still, I remember the magic of the city, the way the light caressed the buildings, the hustle and bustle out on the avenues. I was young then, and aside from the huge cups of café au lait we had with breakfast, I didn’t much care about French food. After all, French food has a reputation as being saucy, rich, self-important, right?
I guess that explains why years later, I still wasn’t paying attention to any food that billed itself as French. French bread, sure, and I actually have a version of it I make that’s basic and delicious. But the rest of it? No thanks. I have enough trouble getting through a day of writing, editing, social media, and the dramas of life that always seem to rear their ugly heads. The last thing I need to think about is exotic ingredients and recipes with names I can’t pronounce.
And then I started doing research for “French Fried,” book #2 in my Ethnic Eats mystery series.
The basic premise set up in book #1 of the series (“Irish Stewed”) is this: Laurel Inwood, Hollywood chef, ends up working in a greasy spoon diner in an old railway station in Hubbard, Ohio and when she realizes the place is going down the tubes, she decides to mix things up. Every month, she features foods from a different country. Obviously in that first book, that food came from Ireland. Colcannon and soda bread–yum! All, of course, served with a side of murder.
In “French Fried,” Laurel has decided to put French food on the menu and a local farmer, Rocky Arnaud, is helping with fresh produce and the recipes she brought with her from her native country. Rocky is found dead and though the local cops think it’s a suicide, Laurel’s not buying it. If that isn’t enough to keep her busy, it’s the 130th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty and the town is celebrating, there’s a famous French romance novelist in town, and Laurel’s dealing with the joys and complications of falling in love with a handsome Irish attorney.
Like me, Laurel doesn’t have time to waste on pretentious French food. She’s looking for simple. Basic ingredients. Fabulous flavor. I’m pleased to say both Laurel and I found out it’s actually pretty easy to stay true to French culinary roots without sacrificing taste.
Case in point, cassoulet, a stew made with sausage and beans. There’s a recipe for an easy cassoulet in “French Fried” so I won’t repeat it here. I will, though, share a not-so-secret recipe I recently learned for quiche. It’s so easy, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been making it for years!
Quiche ala Inwood
1 pie crust (don’t make it hard on yourself, use a store-bought crust and prepare according to package directions)
1C. cheese of your choice
1 C. sauteed veggies (use whatever you love or use up leftovers)
1/3 C. whipping cream
1/3 C. milk
Let your pie crust cool, then sprinkle the bottom of it with half the cheese. Add the veggies, then the eggs, milk and cream that you have whisked together. Top with the rest of the cheese and bake at 350 or until the filling is set. Cool and serve. It’s magnifique!